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One of the common complaints from anyone who is a book lover is that there is not enough room to store your books without giving up living space in your residence. Although storing books in your garage may be a solution, it is important to take a careful look at the conditions in your garage before making space there to store books.
Placing books in the garage, while still having access to them means trying to match the right temperature, pest control, humidity and air circulation features that are recommended for keeping your books in the best possible condition.
A careful review of the space where you will be creating a mini library is the first step. You will need to identify the typical temperatures and relative humidity for both summer and winter seasons. You will also need to be sure you can protect against insects and pests, as well as against dirt, mold, and lighting issues. Here are several characteristics to check before moving your collection.
How Much Space Is Available?
The available space will be the first consideration. If your garage is already full of seasonal equipment, storage for bulk purchases, tools, and lawn and garden tools, placing your books in the vicinity may cause some changes in the condition of the books.
The construction of your garage will make a difference. Some are insulated and finished inside, while others are little more than a free-standing shed. The amount of construction, remodeling, and renovation will depend on the original condition of the building. Obviously, you will want the space to be weather-tight, and not subject to flooding or dampness. You will also need to prevent direct sunlight and UV light on your books, since they can cause fading.
Regardless of where you place your book collection, the placement of the books on the shelves is important. The books should be placed on the shelves in a vertical position. They should not be packed too tightly, as this won’t permit the books to breathe. It also can cause damage when books are removed from the shelves for access or cleaning. They should be placed together in similar sized groups to support the spines and prevent them from falling over.
If books won’t fit on the shelf because they are too large to be placed vertically, they can be stacked horizontally. No more than three books should be stacked together, and they should be as close as possible to the same size, so that damage to the spine or pressure marks are avoided. The order of the books stacked horizontally should be changed periodically so that the weight doesn’t always affect the bottommost book.
The Role Of Temperature On Book Conditions
Garages that are not insulated as well as the rest of your house can be subject to higher temperatures and lower temperatures, just as the temperatures outside of the structure change. The extremes of temperature can cause the paper, glue, cloth and leather to deteriorate. When high temperatures are combined with humidity, the result can be growth of mold and mildew.
The Problem of Pests
Dozens, even hundreds of insects inhabit the world, Some, perhaps even many of them are able to get into a garage and they may be interested in making a meal of or a nest in of the books stored in the space. Some common insects which will destroy the books that they have access to include booklouse, powderpost beetle, paper worm, larder beetle, Mexican book beetle, spider beetle, and silverfish.
Books stored in a more accessible space require more stringent and active monitoring to prevent insects from destroying the books. Crawling, creeping and flying insects can all go after paper, glue and bindings. Insects are not the only type of destructive creatures that can ruin a collection. The problem of mice and rats, as well as squirrels, raccoons and other creatures is one faced by both urban and rural homeowners.
Lighting for Garage Storage
Some garages have minimal lighting or no sunlight at all in the space. Others are light and bright with windows and workshop level lighting. The problem with sunlight is the ultraviolet rays. They affect books and their bindings in a negative way. UV rays are also present in many types of artificial light. If there are windows in the garage, they should be blocked so that there are no UV rays falling on the books.
You will need to keep the artificial lighting in your garage at a minimal level to avoid damage from UV rays. Lights should be kept low and only used as often as is necessary for cleaning or otherwise accessing the books.
Moving Air Benefits
Books need to be able to ‘breathe’. Good air circulation tends to prevent that musty smell, as well as the growth of mold. Keep the air moving around your books, and use a dehumidifier for the best condition of the books. When you keep the air moving, it is easier to maintain the appropriate range in temperatures. If the moving air is filtered, it will help to limit dust and exhaust fumes.
The Issue of Moisture
An unheated or uncooled garage space is likely to manifest some issues with relative humidity. Opening a garage door brings outside air into the space, so if the moisture level outside is high, the humidity inside is likely to be high also. If you are keeping your automobile in the garage, as well as the books, it can be another source of humidity or condensation. The issue of moisture in the garage is one which will cause deterioration in the books stored there.
You will need to think about climate control features such as a dehumidifier, fans, or perhaps some temperature control systems. The best levels for humidity are in the 45 to 55 percent range.
Desiccants such as silica gel are an effective way to reduce high levels of moisture in the air. There are reusable packets that can be placed on shelves near the books, or for a larger solution, install a dehumidifier.
There are main categories of dehumidifiers. Refrigerant types are more energy efficient and are less costly to purchase and operate. Desiccant style dehumidifiers are quiet and work better in lower temperatures than refrigerant types.
TIP: Learn more about non climate-controlled storage here: How do you store books in a non climate controlled storage?
The Growth of Mold and Mildew
Closely related to high humidity is the presence of mold and mildew which can quickly take over the organic materials which comprise the books. Specifically, these include cloth, wood, paper, and leather. When you go into a used bookstore, you will often notice a musty smell, which indicates the presence of mold or mildew.
Mold spores are very apparent when they attach themselves to a book. It is important to identify and remove any mold that is observed, because if mold is present, it can spread rapidly. Use a fine brush, a soft cloth, or a HEPA-filter vacuum cleaner to suck away the dry spores. Paperback can be wiped down with a denatured alcohol cloth. The pages which show signs of mold can be brushed, or wiped down with hydrogen peroxide.
Damp books require a more aggressive treatment process. The books must be dried first, then the mold removed as described above. Baking soda can help to absorb a musty odor which remains after the book is dry.
Whether your books are in a garage, in your residence, or elsewhere, keeping them clean is important. Remove dust with a soft cloth or brush, check the condition for any sign of insects, moisture, mold or mildew, and address any sign of deterioration due to sunlight or rodents. The books should be dusted, and the shelves also dusted so that dust won’t degrade the edges and bindings of the book.
A garage may be a solution which works for your book collection, but it is not the best location as a good storage space for placing your books. Some of the factors which make garage book storage less than desirable include insects, lighting, temperature, humidity, and rapid fluctuations in temperature and moisture. Even when you must use the garage to house your books, they should be stored in conditions which are as close as possible to the standards described above.
The suggestions and warnings discussed here, if followed, may allow you to have relatively good access to your books and still take advantage of the additional storage in your garage. Careful monitoring of the environmental conditions is important. Books are generally fragile, and will deteriorate quickly if conditions are adverse.